Q: “I was dismayed to find out about Google’s new privacy policies that allow them to collect information when I use their products, such as Gmail. I like Gmail a lot and don’t really want to give it up, but I’m wondering if there are any alternatives that don’t invade my privacy. Do you have any suggestions?”
A: You bring up a good point. Many people use Gmail because it’s a good email program, but few people know how much information Google collects about them.
As I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago, the amount of information Google collects and stores on each user is quite staggering.
Google tracks and stores every email you send, as well as every Google search term, the content in every Google chat, every conversation on Google Voice, and every appointment you enter into their calendar, among other things. Even if you’re not logged into Google, they can still track information on you for up to six months.
As part of privacy changes they made a few months ago, if you use any Google products, you cannot opt out of this data collection.
The reason they do this is (no surprise) because of the money they can charge advertisers who want this information. They are betting that you won’t give up their products.
But some people, such as yourself, are more concerned with privacy and don’t want personal data collected and sold to the highest bidder.
Fortunately, there are some alternatives to Gmail that do not engage in data collection and actually respect your privacy.
Alternatives to Gmail
Hushmail is a secure email service which encrypts the messages you send. Recipients must register to receive the encrypted email, or know the answer to a question you specify. If you use their free version, you are limited to 2MB a year. For $35 a year, you can use up to 1 GB of storage, and $50 a year gets you up to 10GB of storage. You can sign up for Hushmail without providing any personal information.
“We assure you that the contents of your Account will not be disclosed to anyone and will not be accessible to employees of ZOHO Corporation. Neither do we process the contents of your Account for serving targeted advertisements.”
As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with Google trying to maximize their profits.
But when they do it at the expense of your privacy, and do not allow you to opt-out of their data collection, it may be a good time to look into alternatives that actually respect your privacy.